Gower Bibliography

Ruddymane and Canace, Lost and Found: Spenser's Reception of Gower's Confessio Amantis 3 and Chaucer's Squire's Tale

Sanders, Arnold A.. "Ruddymane and Canace, Lost and Found: Spenser's Reception of Gower's Confessio Amantis 3 and Chaucer's Squire's Tale." In The Work of Dissimilitude: Essays from the Sixth Citadel Conference on Medieval and Renaissance Literature. Ed. Allen, David G. and White, Robert A.. Newark, Delaware: University of Delaware Press, 1992, pp. 196-215.


Sanders collocates four texts in his essay: Gower's tale of "Canace and Machaire" from CA 3.143-336, Chaucer's SqT, the episode of Amavia and Mordant from the Faerie Queene, Book 2, and Spenser's adaptation and completion of SqT in FQ Book 4. The entire episode of Amavia, her lover, and her child Rudddymane has a number of parallels with the story of Canace as Ovid depicts it in the Heroides, but as Amavia dies, Ruddymane bathes in the blood flowing from her breast, a detail that Sanders points out Spenser could have found only in Gower's version. In his retelling of the tale, Gower transforms a dramatic monologue into a third-person narrative, but maintains the moral bearings of Ovid's version: "Gower's appropriation of Ovid's pagan text takes advantage of its psychological astuteness to dramatize the medieval view of relations between the mind and nature when the Christian law of temperance and forgiveness was lacking" (p. 201). In his retelling, Spenser eliminates the woman's father (Ovid's Aeolus), and transfers his fury to the woman herself; he also has Guyon rescue the innocent baby, an act of mercy that compensates for Aeolus' wrath. His adaptation of Chaucer is somewhat more complex. Sanders argues that SqT, about a rather different Canace, is also an attempt to rewrite Gower's and Ovid's story: no other tale of Canace is known, and Chaucer's heroine is also provided not with just one brother but with two, raising the potential at least for another lapse into incest. The Squire, having heard Gower's tale misrepresented in MLIntro, anticipates objections to his tale from one of the Man of Law's middle class companions. He carefully provides his Canace with the means to protect herself from the failings of Ovid's and Gower's heroines, and he shifts the theme from youthful innocence to a concern for truthfulness and secrecy, but he is interrupted nonetheless, by the Franklin (in the manuscripts that provide the base for all modern editions) or by the Merchant (in Thynne's editions). Spenser would have sympathized with aristocratic Squire's prerogative to shape the tale in his own way. In FQ 4 he follows the Squire's example by carrying the transformation of the tale even further, by placing Canace in a setting within reach of Christian values. And his resolution of the conflicts of the story emphasizes the tempering of the extremes of love and hate, echoing the rescue of Ruddymane by the figure of Temperance in Book 2. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 11.2]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Confessio Amantis
Influence and Later Allusion

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